Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez could be activated as early as next weekend, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. He is scheduled to make a rehab start with the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate on Monday, which would put the 33-year-old on track to rejoin the Seattle rotation on Saturday or Sunday, assuming no setbacks.
With the Mariners squarely outside of the playoff picture, the veteran Hernandez won’t be returning to contribute to a playoff contender, something he has missed for his entire career. Instead, it looks as if King Felix will be playing with an eye on his future in the Majors. Playing out the last of a seven-year deal, Hernandez is slated to reach free agency at season’s end, though he won’t be the commodity that would’ve captivated teams less than a decade ago. Indeed, he may not be a lock to receive a guaranteed contract.
Since inking that extension prior to 2013, Hernandez has seen his performance decline from a Hall of Fame trajectory to that of a borderline rotation piece. After eclipsing 200 innings pitched in eight consecutive seasons from 2008-15, Felix has suffered injuries that have only hastened his undoing. That fall from grace has come to a head this season, where the Mariners icon has mustered a 6.52 ERA, albeit in just eight starts. Of course, with a return seemingly on the horizon, King Felix should get several chances to reverse his fortune and finish his Mariners tenure on a high note.
King Felix’s decline has been well-documented, but it’s undeniable the impact that he has had on the Mariners organization and baseball’s landscape as a whole. Needless to say, followers of the Mariners and other teams alike would like to see the former Cy Young Award winner continue to pitch in the big leagues in hopes that he can reinvent himself into a serviceable rotation piece. On the one hand, one might point to cases like Justin Verlander or Charlie Morton, pitchers who have enjoyed renaissances at an advanced age; at 33, one would think there’s something left in the tank for Felix. On the other hand, there’s considerable mileage on Hernandez’s right arm: debuting at 19, he’s accumulated nearly 2700 innings pitched at the Major League level, fourth among active pitchers and significantly more than most of his contemporaries logged through their age-33 seasons.